Kitchen Hack: Making Frozen Veggies Taste Amazing

I’m sure all of our wallets have felt the sting of inflation when visiting the grocery stores lately. Milk is nearly $4 a gallon, bread is over $3 a loaf, and meat prices are astronomical, too! When you shop on a budget and most of that budget is spent on essentials, some things just have to get pulled back. Maybe that’s less snacks, maybe that’s less organic items, or maybe it’s replacing fresh vegetables with frozen.

I have been buying frozen vegetables for a while now because 1. they’re easier (no chopping!) and 2. they’re cheaper. This started probably sometime in 2020 after having our second daughter, and then into 2021 I bought more and more frozen broccoli. Our second daughter has been a pickier eater than our first, but broccoli was one of her favorite foods – and up until recently – the only vegetable that she’d actually eat. It was because of this that I started experimenting with different ways to cook frozen vegetables, and I think I nailed it! Read below for the “recipe” that takes your frozen veggies from sad to fab!

Instead of boiling your veggies to death or steaming them in the microwave you’re going to get out a cast iron skillet and a large lid.

Then pre-heat your skillet on high heat. Once it’s hot, dump your 12-16 ounce bag of vegetables directly into the pan and cover them. The water that is released will steam them while they’re covered.

After about 4 minutes, uncover your veggies, add two tablespoons of olive or avocado oil (or butter), salt and pepper to taste, and about 1/2 tsp of garlic powder. Give all of that a stir then cover again.

Cook for an additional 6-8 minutes, covered, and with the heat turned down to about medium.

And that’s it! These are so easy and it gives the vegetables a little bit of a crisp on the outside while they still maintain the tenderness of steamed veggies. And this isn’t just for broccoli! I’ve used this method with all sorts of frozen veggies: carrots, cauliflower, halved brussels sprouts, green beans, peas, bell peppers, frozen stir fry mixes, and corn kernels. It turns out spectacular every time! If you try a different vegetable, please give me an update.

I hope this little hack serves you well. Save some time, spend less, eat some veggies…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

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Kitchen Hack: How to make a Cake Mix Taste Homemade

I love baking from scratch: muffins, cakes, cookies, biscuits, you name it. However, after having my second daughter, and especially now being pregnant with my third (a boy!) I’ve come to appreciate the convenience of a store bought cake mix. I mean, you cut open a package, add some eggs and water, and you have a cake with barely any effort! The downside to not making homemade desserts is that they don’t taste homemade. I mean, they aren’t, but why can’t it taste the same? Well I have a few hacks (that I have used plenty over the past couple of years) that can make a cake mix taste homemade! People will never even know 😉

Chocolate/orange cake for a friend’s baby shower

With a typical cake mix you usually need to add oil, eggs, and water, so some basic swaps I like to make are: melted butter for oil, an extra egg, and milk (or coffee in a chocolate cake) for water. Those changes alone will take your cake mix to the next level, but you can take it a step further by adding some extra goodies to the batter. Some things I like to add are salt (always! It helps balance out the sweetness), ground cinnamon, some orange zest in a chocolate cake, lemon zest in a vanilla cake, a flavor such as vanilla (in any flavor), mint (in chocolate), or almond (in chocolate or vanilla), or some extra mix-ins like chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or chocolate chips. Be sure to stay away from anything too wet such as fruit because it will mess with the baking times.

When it comes to frosting, the same things work. Make canned frosting creamier by adding a bit more butter or cream cheese, add a pinch of salt, maybe flavor it with an extract or citrus zest, maybe mix in some jelly or nut butter, and it will taste like delicious, creamy homemade frosting!

This is such an easy kitchen hack, but it’s really been helpful, and I’ve been able to gussy up so many basic boxed cake mixes. These simple swaps and additions can help make an ordinary cake into something special, in a fraction of the time! Have your cake and eat it, too…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Easy Instant Pot Carnitas

By now, y’all probably know that I just love bargain shopping! Saving money and eating healthier? That’s a literal win-win! If you read my weekly January meal plans this year, then you know I try and spend as little as possible at the store each week. Basically, I can’t pass up a good deal and/or coupon! There was recently a buy one, get one for a penny deal for pork shoulders at the store. So you already know I got two of those pork shoulders and we ate some delicious carnitas tacos/taco salads two weeks in a row!

After my first time making this succulent pork in the Instant Pot I knew I needed to write it down to share with you. It is flavorful (but not too spicy for kids), juicy, fall apart tender, and ready in less than an hour thanks to the pressure cooking powers of the Instant Pot! My suggestions for serving as a salad are to top with habanero ranch, crumbled plantain chips, guacamole, fresh cilantro, and a hefty squeeze of lime juice. My suggestions for serving as a taco are on a fresh, warm tortilla topped with salsa, cilantro, and, again, a hefty squeeze of lime juice. I hope you can enjoy this delicious, healthy pork recipe for a Taco Tuesday real soon!

Easy Instant Pot Carnitas

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pound pork shoulder
  • 3 tsp of chili powder
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp of onion powder
  • Cayenne to taste
  • 1 and 1/4 cup of chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of salsa
  • Juice of half a lime

Directions

  1. Season pork shoulder with all seasonings chili powder through cayenne
  2. Turn Instant Pot to sauté feature (or sauté on the stove in a pot if yours does not have this feature)
  3. Cook for two minutes on each side, until brown. Your Instant Pot might give you the “hot” signal (mine did), but it is okay – it won’t burn!
  4. Remove pork shoulder and set aside.
  5. Add chicken stock, salsa, and lime juice, scraping up brown bits.
  6. Put pork shoulder back in with the liquids, close lid and set to “pressure cook” feature.
  7. Cook for 15 minutes per pound (add 5 minutes per pound extra if your shoulder is frozen) and allow for a 20 minute natural pressure release.
  8. Shred meat and serve with desired fixings!
  9. Store leftovers covered in fridge for up to a week.

The Instant Pot is a quick and easy way to get a flavorFULL meal on the table in no time! For more Instant Pot recipes check out my Instant Pot Black Beans and my Instant Pot Mushroom Pot Roast. It took me a long time to actually utilize my Instant Pot so if you would rather use a slow cooker check out some of my slow cooker recipes like Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos or Slow Cooker Potato and Kale Soup. I hope whatever you decide to cook that you love both the process and the outcome, have a family meal…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

DIY All Natural Kitchen Cleaner

Okay so I realize that spring is 2/3rds of the way over, but surely I can’t be the only one still needing to do spring cleaning? I think a really thorough deep clean would be good for my mental health; you know, the kind where you actually move the furniture to mop under it? Imagining sitting in a house that clean sounds heavenly; I would have the windows open, letting in the warm, spring-scented fresh air while relaxing with a cup of coffee and a good book.

Unfortunately the reality is the most cleaning I usually have time for is wiping down the counters and running the vacuum. All while listening to my four-year-old whine and watch my one-year-old throw her food and spill her milk on my freshly cleaned floors. *sigh/laugh combo* However, there is some good news: having a one-year-old that army crawls means that her shirt mops up all the hard to reach places for me. Joking…kinda. The truly good news is that many months ago, I started making my own all natural kitchen cleaner using vinegar, essential oils, and water. I seriously use it everywhere – even the dreaded high chair! It smells great, gets the job done well, and I don’t have to worry about if my girls accidentally drink some. They definitely wouldn’t be pleased with the flavor, but at least I don’t have to worry about it poisoning them! If you are looking for something that is great on tough messes (again…high chair), but is all natural, smells good, and is easy to make yourself, read on for the recipe!

DIY All Natural Kitchen Cleaner

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass spray bottle
  2. Use to clean everywhere! Cabinets, counters, appliances, table, high chair, etc.

That’s it! This is such an easy “recipe”, and like I said, I’ve been using this little cleaning concoction for months now! I even use it on wood furniture when dusting (you know, on the once a month occasion that I dust), and squirt a few sprays into my dishwasher’s pre-rinse section to help with water spots. It is really handy, cheap, and the best part is that it’s all natural. I hope this helps you feel like keeping a clean and green home is a bit easier! If you need a snack after all your cleaning, I got you covered there, too 😉 Maybe something crunchy or salty, or something for your sweet tooth. Check out some recipes while you’re here! However much you end up cleaning, or not, and whatever you snack on, I hope you have a wonderful week. Don’t sweat the small stuff, soak up the little moments with your people…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Instant Pot Black Beans

Well, it’s mid-March and the year is just running by, full speed ahead. After our wild snow storm in Texas last month, I’ve never been so relieved to see Spring. My second baby is about to turn one in a few weeks *cue the ugly crying*, spring break is here, the time change is looming, and our red bud tree in the backyard is starting to blossom. Even though I’m relieved that spring has sprung, and I’m enjoying seeing the “rebirth” of nature, I am sad that time is moving so quickly – it’s like each day slips through my fingers like sand. These days are filled with equally precious and hard moments of motherhood that I won’t get back.

Part of the reason time is moving so quickly is that we have been extra busy over here. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have seen that we have Selah (our baby) in physical therapy right now. She has both low and high muscle tone and is struggling with gross motor development. For the last three weeks or so we have had about 3-4 appointments a week between the chiropractor, PT, and other meetings with the therapists. However, after seeing improvement after just two PT sessions, I am encouraged that this busy season won’t last too long. But, wow! 3-4 appointments a week, on top of regular mom life, on top of two part time jobs, I just feel like I don’t have much extra time. Especially for cooking.

Enter: the Instant Pot. This little kitchen gadget has become all the rage in years past, and after receiving one for a Christmas present in 2019 I can see why! To be honest, I was a little terrified of it blowing up, and was hesitant to get started using it, but once I did, I started with beans, and I was sold! The first bean recipe I made in the Instant Pot was red beans, and even with the time it takes to get to pressure, then cook, then release (side note: I hate that Instant Pot recipes don’t account for that time – I learned quickly not to trust the “15 minutes” marking on a recipe), what would normally be an all day venture only took 90 minutes, and the beans came out the perfect creamy texture! Next I tackled black beans. We eat black beans and rice often for a cheap, plant-based meal; then I get to use the leftover black beans throughout the week to top fajitas, tacos, salads, and even scrambled eggs. So if you want to save time and money with this quick and easy dinner and/or side, keep reading for the recipe!

Instant Pot Black Beans

Ingredients

  • One medium bell pepper, chopped
  • One half of a yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 pound of
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of chili powder
  • Optional for serving: rice
  • Optional toppings: avocado, lime, cilantro, jalapenos, scallions/red onions

Directions

  1. Cover beans with water and soak for at least three hours, or up to overnight. This is optional, but I find that it helps with digestion and less “tootie booties” as we say in our house hehe!
  2. Once beans are done soaking, drain and toss remaining water.
  3. Turn on “sauté” feature and cook bell pepper and onion in olive oil until tender and beginning to brown.
  4. Turn off Instant Pot and add garlic, stirring to get the garlic warm but not toasty.
  5. Add broth and water, scraping the bottom of the pot to get up any browned bits.
  6. Add in beans and seasonings.
  7. Select “pressure cook” and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes, allowing a 20 minute natural release at the end.
  8. Serve warm with rice and toppings, or as a side dish.
  9. Keep leftover beans in remaining liquid, cover and refrigerate for up to five days.

If you haven’t yet boarded the Instant Pot train, I hope you’ll check out my slow cooker recipes here, here, and here. Save some time in the kitchen…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Pumpkin and Oat Blender Waffles

As a new mom for the second time (still unreal?!) I get attacked often by hanger. Feeling “hangry” is feeling so hungry that you get angry, and unfortunately, this happens to me fairly frequently. It goes a little something like this: I wake in the 6 o’clock range to chubby fingers pulling my eyelids open and giggling morning breath in my face. After some persuasion, I get out of bed and am greeted by Coffee, my morning buddy. After having a semi-rough night of sleep either comforting a preschooler with a bad dream and/or nursing a hungry baby, the hanger strikes.

All of a sudden my hands are shaking, my stomach is growling, and my patience is thin. And something like cereal will not cure the hanger; at this point I need something substantial, and I need it fast! At this time of year, pumpkin flavored everything abounds, and I am not ashamed to say I love pumpkin flavored goodies (still haven’t tried a PSL, though), and even more so if I can have healthy pumpkin goodies!

How can this breakfast live up to all of my demands: fast, pumpkin flavored, healthy, and filling?! Blender waffles! It does not get much easier than blending all your ingredients then pouring them into a waffle iron! Have your kiddos help you blend it up while you sip your coffee: healthy, fun, and delicious for the whole family!

Pumpkin and Oat Blender Waffles

  • Servings: 12 mini waffles
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil
  • 3 tsp of maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • Optional mix-ins: chocolate chips, pecans, or collagen peptides

Directions

  1. Plug in waffle iron to begin heating. (My husband got me this mini waffle iron for our anniversary)
  2. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  3. Oil your waffle iron, then pour in desired amount of batter. Have a little fun and stud your waffles with chocolate chips or pecans!
  4. Cook waffles according to your waffle maker directions.
  5. Top with butter, honey, syrup, cinnamon, peanut butter, whatever your heart desires!
  6. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

These waffles will be sure to hit the spot! For more quick breakfasts to beat the hanger, check out my Berries and Greens Smoothie or Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats, and for another pumpkin treat, check out my Pumpkin Spice Cake.

Beat the “hanger”, have fun with your family, eat waffles…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, but a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Vegetable Fried Rice

Do you have a staple, go-to, easy dish you frequently fix for your family? Vegetable fried rice is one of ours! It’s a quick, simple, and delicious way to eat plenty of veggies while taking a break from meat. Plus it’s healthier than any take-out you can get! We typically try to eat 1-2 vegetarian/plant based meals per week because it’s good for the tummy and the budget! You can eat it as a side dish – it would go great paired with my Sweet and Sour Broccoli – or solo for a light, vegetarian dinner. If you want to take a break from eating too much meat, but find yourself scratching your head for ideas, I hope you try out this delicious and veggie-heavy dish!

friedrice1.jpg

Vegetable Fried Rice


Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cooked brown rice (cooked according to package)
  • 1 lb of frozen stir fry vegetables
  • 1 tbsp of sesame oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 knobs of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tsp of sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp of coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 3 eggs, beaten

Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat sesame oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onions and garlic, cooking until tender and fragrant (about 3-5 minutes).
  3. Add in ginger and sesame seeds, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Turn heat to medium-high and add frozen stir fry vegetables.
  5. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once vegetables are tender (but still vibrant in color, not mushy!), add cooked rice.
  7. Add in seasonings and coconut aminos, stirring to coat everything.
  8. Create a hole in middle of the pot and add beaten eggs.
  9. As the eggs start to cook, slowly scramble them, then mix into the rice.
  10. Serve hot topped with chopped scallions and extra coconut aminos.
  11. Store leftovers covered in fridge for 7-10 days.

I hope you give this easy vegetarian dish a try! For more plant based dinner ideas, check out my Baked Falafel and my Slow Cooker Potato and Kale Soup. Eat your vegetables…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Maple Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Imagine that it’s a sweltering hot [boiling] August afternoon; it feels like your next door neighbor is Mr. Sun himself, and you just can’t wait for your afternoon cup of dark black, bitter, burn-your-tongue-hot coffee. *cue game show buzzer: EH!* (that was my best attempt at spelling a sound…) No! You need sweet, cold, iced coffee, and you need it now. Personally, if I’m drinking cold coffee, I need it just a touch sweeter than the way I drink my hot coffee. But not too sweet because I’m not looking for cavities and anxiety attacks, ‘kay?! This Maple Vanilla Creamer is the perfect mix of sweet but not too sweet! It mixes in great to your cup of iced coffee or cold brew, but it’s also good for hot coffee, and, I discovered, a delicious nut milk sub in my Dairy Free Chocolate Milkshakes.

Also, I will share an iced coffee tip I learned from my husband, who learned from my brother-in-law, who used to work at Starbucks. (How’s that for a game of telephone?) When we want to make iced coffee, we simply brew coffee as usual, but with half the amount of water. Then we add ice cubes to the carafe; that way, as the hot coffee brews over the ice, some of it melts, cooling the coffee without watering it down. Then we add extra ice to our individual glass. Another way to have iced coffee is just to be a mom… you’ll never finish a mug of hot coffee. But, alas, I digress. However you make your iced coffee, pour this creamer in to your heart’s content, and enjoy!

Maple Vanilla Coffee Creamer

  • Servings: 1 cup of creamer
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsp of pure maple syrup (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar.
  2. Stir to combine.
  3. Use immediately, or store covered for up to 2 weeks. Give the jar a shake before pouring.

That’s it! A simple, dairy free, refined sugar free way to spruce up your iced (or hot) coffee. For more coffee creamers, check out my Pumpkin Pie Coffee Creamer (pumpkin season is almost upon us!) and my Mexican Mocha Creamer. If you love coffee as much as I do, I know you will love all these sweet, but not too sweet, creamers! Sip some sweet, cold coffee, soak up the last rays of summer…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you; just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Sweet and Sour Broccoli

I have to admit something – I used to despise broccoli. I would eat it if I had to, but I wouldn’t pick broccoli as my vegetable of choice. In the last few years I’ve discovered the crispy, delicious magic that is roasted veggies, and that changed the [veggie] game! First with brussels sprouts (you can read that post here), then with carrots. I already liked carrots, but discovered how much sweeter they were when roasted (the carrots in this recipe are amazing!), so I decided I’d try roasting more veggies. Since broccoli is a readily available and versatile veggie, I decided to try roasting it. The results were, of course, delicious, but even great things need a little variation sometimes. Enter the Sweet and Sour Broccoli – crispy roasted broccoli tossed in a sticky sweet, tangy, and slightly spicy sauce. The result is a vegetable party in your mouth. This broccoli recipe is a perfect side dish, but it can also be served over rice for a vegetarian meal. However you eat it, I hope you enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Broccoli


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of fresh broccoli (about 3 medium heads), chopped into small florets
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 cup of raw honey
  • 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp of coconut aminos
  • 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp of ground mustard

Directions


1. Preheat oven to 425 F
2. Lay broccoli flat on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet.
3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
4. Roast for 40-50 minutes (until desired crispiness), stirring halfway through.
5. While the broccoli is roasting, prepare your sauce by combining remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
6. While the broccoli is still warm, toss in the sweet and sour sauce.
7. Serve warm, topped with more crushed red pepper and coconut aminos.
8. Store leftovers covered, in fridge.

For more roasted vegetables, check out the recipes linked in the first paragraph, as well as ABC Brussels SproutsRoasted Potatoes, and Kale Chips Two Ways. I promise that your kiddos will eat their veggies more willingly if they’re crispy and crunchy! Grown-ups might, too. 😉 Just like your mom used to tell you – eat your veggies…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Cheesy Popcorn

This is my first post in two weeks, and I apologize, but I needed to take a break from the work that I could these last few weeks. A surprise pregnancy followed by a heart shattering miscarriage left me reeling with grief and unable to do much more than the bare minimum. I will probably write more about my miscarriage experience someday, but for now I will just write a recipe for a classic comfort snack. Popcorn!

I don’t know about you, but when I am going through a hard time, food is the ultimate love language – people bringing meals (or coffee!), buying food, or making snacks is the kindest gesture of solace – it helps me know I’m not alone in my sadness, and I have people truly thinking of me. After discovering the perfect cheesy popcorn ratio, my sweet husband would often make us a big batch of this popcorn and then we would cuddle up on the couch to watch a movie, and during these past few weeks, it was a welcome comfort. So now I will gift you with this Cheesy Popcorn recipe, and you can use it to comfort yourself in sad times or just to spice up your Friday night movie nights!

Cheesy Popcorn


Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil (or oil of choice)
  • 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels
  • 2 tbsp of butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tbsp of nutritional yeast

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  2. Add kernels to hot oil, cover, and wait for them to pop, shaking your pan occasionally.
  3. Pour popped corn into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add melted butter, salt, and nutritional yeast while still warm.
  5. Enjoy!

I hope this tasty, quick, and easy snack recipe brings some levity to your life. You can get these cute popcorn holders here – perfect for a family movie night or a party! As always, you can find many more easy recipes on my site – for more snack-y recipes check out my Oven Baked FriesSpicy Garlic Chicken NachosKale Chips Two Ways, and dips like Simple Guacamole and Spicy Garlic Salsa. Hug your loved ones tight, live in gratitude…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you; it is a small commission for me, which allows me to keep recipe testing. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!